I really want to do something to help out in my community during these disorienting times. I’m concerned about my own safety, sure, but I really want to make a difference because so many people are suffering. What about food scarcity? I’ve seen that foodbanks really need volunteers. Can you help shed some light on the options?
Thank you so much for writing in. We know that people are looking for ways to help out in their communities during these disorienting times. The national Covid-19 response has not only constrained our choices in terms of the way we spend our time, it has brought into focus what is essential, and food banks are critical. The coronavirus has strained the economy and with jobless rates soaring, more people than ever need to rely on food donations. At the same time, shelter-in-place orders and CDC warnings have made it hard to fill volunteer shifts at food banks. In many parts of the country, supply chain disruptions have made acute the need for fresh produce and other staples through food banks.
Volunteer opportunities abound at food pantries through big hunger relief organizations and their partner agencies as well as more local organizations, but it is challenging to attract enough people to participate in food drives and special events. If you’re looking for ways to perform community service in the age of this pandemic, checking into safe ways to help with mobile pantries or mobile food distribution projects may be a place to start–you just need closed-toe shoes, a willingness to follow protocol (which probably includes a face mask and gloves) and a desire to help, which you have already expressed. For example, Amava nonprofit partner Soldiers’ Angels makes it possible for volunteers to Feed Heroes in select cities, with maximum precautions in full effect. Their mobile food distribution program is active in Atlanta, Georgia, Charleston, South Carolina, Denver, Colorado, Detroit, Michigan, Orlando, Florida and San Antonio, Texas (partnering with the San Antonio Food Bank).
If you aren’t near any of those cities, it could be worth looking to see if there are volunteer hours available at local food pantries or nonprofit organizations near you. If you’re concerned about safety protocols, check the FAQs on their sites, as many will talk specifically about the safety of individual volunteers and volunteer groups (note that in some cases, if you are over 55 years of age, they may prefer that you volunteer in a different capacity).
If volunteering in person at a food bank is not the best choice for you, you can help by fundraising or taking action in other ways. For example, you can join the fight against hunger by staging a kids cafe in your neighborhood. You can set up a table and put out baked goods, foods items you’ve prepared yourself or even household staples that you aren’t using (some people are using neighborhood free lending libraries that are outside people’s homes to share food and other supplies too). Get the word out that it’s out there on a social networking site and see what happens. If you get together with other neighbors, you might have a community kitchen going in no time!
You can also do remote data entry for food banks, serve as a volunteer coordinator in your service area and recruit event volunteers (as well as collect contact information and make schedules), help find food donations and more. Though most of the available opportunities will be on weekdays (Monday-Friday), some will be on weekends and holidays as well because the need is great and hunger does not take days off. Anything you can do to help food banks, whether direct or indirect, will be greatly appreciated.
We are proud to have you as a Member, Linda.
All the best,